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Save the Profession

Repeal the 3%

Education in Illinois is in the midst of a crisis. We are in the middle of a teacher shortage – which means our students are more likely to have a substitute, be in bigger classes and get less one-on-one time with their teachers.

One way we can begin to fix the problem is by making teaching a more attractive career. This year, for the first time since pollsters started asking a half-century ago, a majority of Americans said they would not want their child to become a teacher.

And here in Illinois, things are made worse by a new 3 percent salary threshold for educators. If a teacher’s salary is increased by more than 3 percent, a school district must pay additional money to the state. That’s even if a teacher’s pay increases because he or she is promoted, earns a master’s degree, takes on a coaching position, directs the school play, writes curriculum during the summer or takes on another extracurricular activity.

At one point in time, the state allowed for exceptions similar to the ones we just mentioned from being subject to any kind of threshold. But lawmakers let those exceptions expire. In addition, the state legislature, in the summer of 2018, buried a measure on page 741 of the budget bill, during the last days of the legislative session that lowered the salary threshold from 6 percent to 3 percent.

Districts worry about being charged if a teacher’s salary increase affects their pension, which means they are keeping raises at, or below, 3 percent regardless of the additional work teachers may take on, degrees they may earn or certification they work for. So districts are opting to skip any raise over 3 percent to make sure they won’t be charged. We are seeing it all over the state.

To be clear, that extra charge to districts and the new 3 percent law, are essentially just a cost shift. The state underfunded the pension system for years and now wants to shift pension costs to local school districts that will be forced to use property taxes to cover those costs and to universities and community college systems that will pass the costs on to students – because this law doesn’t just apply to school districts. It applies to higher education, too.

We need your help telling our lawmakers to reverse the 3 percent salary threshold and put it back to 6 percent. Our teachers depend on it. Our students depend on it. And we won’t fix this teacher shortage without it.

And, if you’re not a teacher or an adjunct, why should you care? Because if history is a teacher, as support personnel, you may be next.

Why is repealing the 3 percent salary limitation important to education support professionals?

The current law in Illinois places a 3 percent salary limitation on TRS and SURS participants regardless of how close they are to retirement. IEA is actively working to repeal this legislation which is hindering the ability to attract and retain quality educators in Illinois.

Within five years of the 6 percent salary limitation becoming law for teachers, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) followed suit and limited participants in IMRF (including ESPs) to no greater than 6 percent increases in salary during their last years of employment, which has had a negative impact on the ability to negotiate meaningful retirement bonuses for ESPs.

If the 3 percent salary limitation is not repealed, it is anticipated the same limitation eventually being applied to ESPs even though IMRF is not funded by the State of Illinois (it is fully funded by employer and employee contributions). This will hinder our ability to attract and retain quality ESPs and further limit the ability to bargain a living wage for ESPs.

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